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Rollin' on the river

GreenFest always offers a range of activities for families, but the annual event at the Ray Roberts Lake Greenbelt also includes an educational element.

At Saturday’s outdoor event, hosted by the Greenbelt Alliance, children and adults alike could climb a rock wall or go kayaking, while others could opt for the bicycle rally, run or try the equine obstacle challenge. But festival-goers also could hear a presentation on birds by representatives from the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center in Lucas.

The presentations, held in the morning and afternoon, allowed visitors a chance to see raptors up close, including the peregrine falcon, the fastest animal on the planet, which has been clocked at more than 240 mph.

Pam Dancaster, resident bird care specialist and weekend manager at BPRC, conducted the bird presentations, which showcased nine birds.

“We’re explaining how important these guys are to our environment,” Dancaster said before the morning session.

For example, a bird such as a barn owl can be used as pest-control agent, allowing a farmer to avoid using pesticides that can drift into water sources.

Helpful as they may be to humans, almost all raptors, with few exceptions, are anti-social and avoid people, Dancaster said.

Humans can do their part to help the environment by refraining from one particular habit. Many of these raptors, especially red-tail hawks, like to hunt along the highways and roads because when people litter, these birds’ food sources forage for food that has been discarded from passing vehicles, Dancaster said.

“So one of the things we can do — and that’s not just on the highways — is no littering,” she said.

During the presentation, Dancaster educated the audience about birds of prey, which have sharp-hooked beaks.

“This is how they eat their food. Think about it: Do they have two hands to pull out a knife and a fork?” she said, drawing a chorus of “no” responses from the children in the audience. “So they use their beak.”

Birds of prey also have sharp-hooked talons, which help them catch and kill their prey. These birds eat fish, other birds and small animals, such as rodents.

Dancaster first showed the kestrel to the audience. The kestrel is North America’s smallest falcon and often can be seen perched on telephone lines. They eat other small birds and small animals, such as mice.

An audience member asked why birds fly away from a telephone poll when a human stops to take a picture.

“What do you think these guys use to hunt with? Their eyes. They see movement,” Dancaster said.

When a person stops along a road or slows down, birds notice the change and generally move, she said.

Dancaster then showed the peregrine falcon and explained its keen eyesight and enormous speed.

“So if you put this bird up against a race car, who wins?” Dancaster said. “She wins.”

Dancaster informed the audience the peregrine falcon’s aerodynamics were replicated in jet engine designs.

“The fighter jets — their body is designed after this bird,” she said. “Fastest animal on Earth — that’s what I’m going to look at, right?”

Dancaster showed some other birds to the audience, and afterward, Antonio Fajardo, of Argyle, who brought wife Rosy, and children Jose, 7, and Mostserrat, 7, to the presentation, discussed what he liked.

“The ones I liked were the falcon and the gray owl,” Jose said.

More information on the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center may be found at

Tim Beaty, vice chairman of GreenFest, now in its fifth year, said more than 1,000 people attended the event. Proceeds from the event go toward getting the trail system back open on the Greenbelt.

“It’s a family-friendly event,” Beaty said about GreenFest. “It’s an opportunity to get the family out and enjoy nature.”

“It’s a day of outdoor family fun,” said Richard Rogers, chairman of the event.

“It’s to create a lifetime memory with your kids, to get them away from the video games and television and get in the outdoors.”

Billy Wilson, of Sanger, who is originally from Pilot Point and grew up in Aubrey, had just stepped off a kayak with stepson Seth Cox, 9, and was accompanied by daughter Baylee Wilson, 14, and stepdaughter, Shelbi Grissom, 14. They participated in a number of events. Seth wasn’t sure what event he liked the best.

“You just had a good time?” Billy asked.

“Yeah,” Seth said.

“Outstanding,” Billy said.

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